On Saturday, thousands of kids will sit in a gym or cafeteria and take one (or more!) of the nine SAT Subject Tests given that day from literature to physics. As the mom of a high school sophomore, I am learning so much I never knew about college prep. Most of us have been thinking about prepping our kids for the SAT since, well, practically since we took it! But you’ll want to consider these companion tests too.
Here’s a quick primer on what these tests are and why your child should consider taking them.
What the SAT Subject Tests are:
As the name denotes, these one-hour tests are focused exclusively on one subject. There are 20 of them available, falling under the categories of math, foreign languages, English literature, science and history/social studies.
They are offered six times a year, and students can take up to three at a session. Typically, it’s recommended that kids take them at the end of their junior year or the beginning of their senior year.
Since these are national tests, they are designed to cover topics that are learned in the majority of high school classrooms. But, curriculum can vary so your child may not have covered the exact information on the test. Don’t worry! The test creators know that, and so it’s possible to get a perfect score (800) on the test even if you don’t answer every question correctly.
As a side note, SAT Subject Tests are eligible for Score Choice, which allows you to choose which SAT Subject Test scores to send to colleges (subject to each institution’s stated score-use rules). Remember, though, that most colleges still consider only a student’s highest scores so it’s usually in your best interest to send all the scores.
Why your kid should take them:
If the thought of taking one more test is enough to make your child (and you) run screaming from the room—or, at the least, a little “testy”— I get it.
But there is one solid reason your child should take them: Colleges Love Them. Yes, taking these tests will make your child that much more appealing to a school. They are one of the best ways to show mastery of subjects and really help your child stand out.
Here are four additional compelling reasons:
- Unlike the SAT and other tests, these are the only tests where you choose exactly what subjects you want to take, showcasing your own particular strengths. So, while you might be a literature lover, a history hero or savvy in Spanish, that darn SAT is still going to focus on your math prowess where you might be weaker. By taking a Subject Test in an area where you excel, you can really shine.
- If you already have a major or program in mind, a corresponding Subject Test can show why you are qualified and/or help with course placement. If you’re looking into a STEM program, for example, you are going to want to take tests in related fields to show your mastery of the subject.
- The tests aren’t necessarily optional: Some colleges will require or recommend at least one SAT Subject Test as part of the application or for course placement. So, you definitely want to double-check the requirements for the schools you are considering. And, of course, if a college “recommends” them, then you know other applicants are taking them. You don’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage by not supplying scores when others are.
- Some colleges also will grant course credit for excellent performance on the SAT Subject Tests, allowing your child to test out of a remedial class in an area where they excel.
Colleges know that while high schools’ grading systems vary, the SAT Subject Tests provide a common and objective scale to evaluate applicants’ strengths in various areas.
The bottom line is that taking the tests can be one more way to show a college your affinity for and mastery of specific subjects.